|MARLENE AXED |
By Nalinee Seelal Friday, March 18 2016
PORT-OF-SPAIN South Member of Parliament Marlene Mc- Donald was yesterday fired as Minister of Housing by Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley during a tense meeting at 6.30 pm, at the Office of the Prime Minister in St Clair. Well-placed sources told Newsday that during the meeting, which lasted for about 30 minutes, loud voices could be heard.
Sources added that McDonald later stormed out of the meeting, telling her driver that she had just been fired before making a call on her cellular phone as she entered her vehicle which sped off.
A press release, issued at 7.47 pm, by Arlene Gorin-George, Press Secretary in the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) stated: “Please be informed that His Excellency Anthony Thomas Aquinas Carmona, acting in accordance with the advice of the Prime Minister under subsection (3) of section 76, subsection (1)of section 79, subsection (9) of section 3 and subsection (3) (c) of section 77 of the Constitution of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago has revoked the appointment of Ms Marlene McDonald as Minister of Housing and Urban Development.
“The Prime Minister has also advised His Excellency on the following: to reassign Mr Randall Mitchell from Minister with responsibility for Public Administration to Minister with responsibility for Housing and Urban Development; to reassign Mr Maxie Cuffie from Minister with responsibility for Communication to Minister with responsibility for Public Administration and Communication and; to assign Mr Stuart Young as Minister in the Office of the Prime Minister. This is in addition to his current portfolio as Minister in the Ministry of the Attorney General.” McDonald’s firing from the Cabinet followed media revelations earlier this week that she had employed her common-law husband Michael Carew in her Port-of- Spain South Constituency office.
A report from Fixin T&T head Kirk Waithe stated he received information from Parliament which showed that Carew and a director of the Calabar Foundation were employed at McDonald’s Port-of- Spain South constituency office for five years, while Carew’s brother Lennox Carew still worked at the MP’s office.
McDonald’s common-law husband, who worked at the office from June 1, 2010 to September 7, 2015, had earned the second highest salary of $13,400 on the Constituency payroll for the full parliamentary term while Lennox began working in the office on March 1, 2011 and has been in receipt of the highest salary of $14,000 out of 13 people working in the office.
Rowley in an interview on Wednesday night on CNC3, said that he could not ignore these new revelations which had surfaced in the media. “An issue had surfaced sometime before and certain adjudications were made (by the Integrity Commission). (But) This morning...I saw what appears to be new information and I spent the day looking at it. And I just want to give the assurance to the national community, that if the facts bear out what is there...and I have to take action, then I will,” he said.
Both Fixin’ T&T’s Waithe and Opposition Leader Kamla Persad- Bissessar had called for Mc- Donald to be fired with the former threatening to move a Motion of Censure in the Parliament if Mc- Donald remained as a Government Minister. While there were mixed reports over whether or not the McDonald issue was discussed yesterday at the weekly Cabinet meeting, Newsday was told that the issue was raised at the meeting chaired by PM Rowley and Mc- Donald - who attended - was given the option to resign.
She stoutly refused to do so and, according to sources, discussions became very heated among several Cabinet members including Mc- Donald. At the end of the meeting, McDonald did not stay for the luncheon as she usually did, instead leaving immediately. After lunch, the Prime Minister called Communications Minister Cuffie, Public Administration Minister Mitchell and Community Development, Culture and the Arts Minister Nyan Gadsby-Dolly into a meeting.
Contacted for comment last night, Cuffie told Newsday he could not confirm if McDonald had been fired from the Cabinet.
At 6.30 pm, McDonald was summoned to the Office of the Prime Minister where she met with Dr Rowley. During the meeting, loud exchanges were heard between the two and shortly before 7 pm, Mc- Donald stormed off. Contacted for comment last night, McDonald told Newsday she was on another call and had no time to speak. She then terminated the call.
McDonald was also facing heat, and an investigation by the Integrity Commission, over a $375,000 cheque made out to the Calabar Foundation on May 12, 2010, some 10 days before the Local Government elections. The cheque dated May 12, 2010 was issued from that Ministry while the People’s National Movement (PNM) was still in office, before its electoral defeat by the People’s Partnership coalition on May 24.
She also previously faced allegations of giving “secret scholarships” while Community Development Minister under the Patrick Manning administration. McDonald was first elected to the House of Representatives as the Member for Port-of-Spain South on November 5, 2007 and was appointed Minister of Community Development, Culture and Gender Affairs. From 2010 to 2015 she served in Opposition as the Chief Whip.